The fair triumvirate of wit

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The fair triumvirate of wit refers to the three 17th and 18th century authors Eliza Haywood, Delarivier Manley, and Aphra Behn.

Term and usage[edit]

The term was coined by poet-critic Rev. James Sterling in a dedicatory verse to Haywood's Secret Histories, Novels, and Poems, and acknowledges the authors' stature as the three most influential women writers of the time.[1] Subsequent feminist literary criticism has helped restore their work–which includes plays, poetry, novels, and essays–to prominence.[2] As the verse appears in the dedication to Haywood's book, it is perhaps unsurprising that Sterling positions her as the most impressive of the three, writing:

Pathetic[a] Behn, or Manley's greater Name;
Forget their Sex, and own when Haywood writ,
She clos'd the Fair triumvirate of Wit.[3]


  1. ^ "Pathetic" here is used in an obsolete sense meaning "affecting the feeling"; see pathos.


  1. ^ Kastan, David Scott (2006). The Oxford encyclopedia of British literature. Oxford University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-19-516921-8. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  2. ^ Haywood, Eliza Fowler; Pettit, Alexander; Croskery, Margaret Case; Patchias, Anna C. (1 April 2004). Fantomina and other works. Broadview Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-55111-524-5. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  3. ^ Anderson, Paul Bunyan (February 1936). "Mistress Delariviere Manley's Biography". Modern Philology. 33 (3): 261–278. doi:10.1086/388202. ISSN 0026-8232.